AS the fight to keep Apsley House for the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery continues, the council has begun the process of removing the building’s historic objects. 

Labour councillors Jane Milner-Barry and Paul Dixon were granted access to the closed museum along and noted several of the displays had already been emptied. 

Despite a petition gathering thousands of signatures, Swindon Borough Council is planning to sell the Grade II-listed buildingin Old Town and move its collections to Euclid Street.

“Two SBC museum service staff showed us round the building,” said Coun Milner-Barry. 

“The temporary displays in the two ground floor rooms on either side of the front door had been dismantled and removed or boxed up.

“In the lower room at the back of the building, the Victorian fire engine was still there and the glass, bottles and ephemera in the display cabinet. There were some packing cases in the room.

“Upstairs, the art gallery is empty. The last exhibition in the main gallery had been a photographic exhibition and we were told that those exhibits have been returned to their owners. 

“Most of the paintings and ceramics in the collection must now be offsite. Almost all the objects in the long archaeology gallery had been removed. Further up, the crocodile and the mummy were still there, with the surrounding displays. 

“There is evidence of damp in the archaeology gallery and in one of the offices. 

“The SBC staff stated that it had been necessary to move the artworks and museum objects into storage to protect them while the repairs and maintenance were carried out."

“The managers of the shops adjoining Apsley House had had a letter from SBC warning them that there would be lorries parked at the back of Apsley House during a working day the previous week.”

A spokesperson from Swindon Borough Council said: “Our museum collections are regularly transported between storage locations and we have artwork on display at the civic offices and STEAM. We also have items stored at various locations in Swindon which are secure and approved for such use by our trained professional curatorial staff.

“For security reasons we are unable to divulge all the locations of our storage facilities, but any artwork removed from Apsley House will be either displayed or stored in conditions at least as favourable as those in Apsley. 

“Any moves are always overseen by trained curatorial staff and are undertaken to rotate displays, or to ensure that the works are housed in suitable accommodation, where they are unlikely to be at risk of damage. 

"It goes without saying that all items that are moved are correctly curated and packaged to avoid damage. These types of moves occur very regularly and have done so for many years.

“The condition of Apsley House is not currently suitable for the storage of fine works of art and, in accord with normal practise, a number of items have been removed to other council storage facilities.”

The costs of moving museum items to the civic offices and the work needed to repair Apsley House will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on December 1.